Friday 17 August 2018

Referendum fatigue? We can expect two more before the end of the year

Voters are likely to have their say on two more potential changes to our Constitution

Stock photo
Stock photo
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

THE abortion referendum may be over with - and the Taoiseach has been very clear that no matter the outcome it will not be rerun - but there is expected to be another two referenda this year.

The electorate is due to vote on the removal of blasphemy as an offence and also on the reference in the constitution to the place of women in the home.

It is planned to hold both votes in the autumn - although that leaves a tight time-frame for the Government to pass legislation to allow the votes to take place.

At present it is planned to use the presidential election to hold the referenda but at this point it is not yet clear if there will be a presidential election.

Blasphemy:

Article 40.6.1(i) states "the publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law".

The constitutional provision garnered international headlines when it emerged gardai were investigating statements made by actor Stephen Fry on the Gay Byrne Meaning of Life show.

Independent.ie first revealed that gardai in Dublin had received a complaint about the comedian and actor's contribution to the show - the case was dropped as no clear aggrieved party could be identified.

The removal of the reference to blasphemy has proved complex but work is continuing in the Justice Department on the proposals to allow a referendum to take place.

Women in the home:

Article 41.2 states that the State "recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved".

It goes on to say that; "The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."

There have been numerous calls over the years - particularly from the National Women’s Council of Ireland - to hold a referendum to remove this wording.

Government minister Josepha Madigan - who has a legal background - backed the holding of a referendum of the issue last year, saying it was time to remove the reference which was an "anachronism that is not reflective of today’s Ireland".

The questions voters will be ask to vote on in both referenda has not yet been fully formulated.

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